Sand portraits honour local war heroes on British beaches
WHEN the icy, unforgiving tide washes over the face of John Mccance tomorrow morning, the moment will be laden with particular significance for one small group of onlookers.
Members of the young soldier’s extended family will meet at Murlough Beach in Co Down for the first time, brought together as their relative, who perished at Passchendaele and has no known grave, becomes a symbol of the centenary commemorations.
The 22-year-old’s portrait, etched in the sand, is one of many that will be swept away by the sea in Pages of the Sea, a project devised by Danny Boyle, the Oscar-winning film director, as the UK marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War. For Richard Mccance, 41, an IT consultant, it will be a bittersweet day.
John Mccance was his great-uncle, a man after whom his father was named and whose photograph, as he posed proudly in his uniform, hung on the wall of his great-aunt’s home.
Around 12 members of his family, most of whom do not know each other, will meet at the beach tomorrow for the first time, some travelling from Scotland. Mr Mccance told The Daily Telegraph: “I grew up in Newcastle, just a mile away from the beach, and went to it many times, as I’m sure John Mccance did… He could never have imagined that one day his face would be in the sand.”
Across Britain, local communities will watch as portraits of local men and women who gave their lives for their country are symbolically lost.
At 32 beaches from the Shetland Islands to Cornwall, communities will be able to gather and watch their beaches transformed by local artists before the tide comes in. The 160 volunteers have been trained by Sand in Your Eye, a collective that created the large-scale portraits to be stencilled on to the sand.
Among those commemorated will be Walter Tull, the first black officer to command white troops, who will be remembered in Ayr, and Wilfred Owen, the celebrated war poet, who swam in the sea in Folkestone, Kent, the day before he left for the front for the second time in Sept 1918. His mother received a telegram informing her of his death on Armistice Day.